Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Religion Has Amazing Powers


But something else is equally powerful:


“Religion has amazing powers. It can unite people by the millions, and turn sadness into joy. It can sooth the shattered heart, triumph over mountains of contradictory evidence, and inspire rapturous belief where none seemed possible before.

Unfortunately, you can say the exact same thing about lying.”

~ Phil Hellenes



Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

79 thoughts on “Religion Has Amazing Powers

  1. (throws up hands in amazement looking left and right for any ignorant rebuttals!?)

    What else needs to be said? Except… life swims in paradox while the kill-joys go mad. 😀

    “We do not need to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the Universe.”
    — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I saw the players praying, and God was on their side, which team would get the nod and with God their team abide, the kick went up, he shanked it left, no answered prayers today, at least for those a wee less faithful, it was their judgement day. I’m no poet but I hope you have a great day!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Of course, there is a Dark Side of the Force of religion too. Amazing powers to destroy and evicerate human dignity and self respect.
    It takes some many years to recover from the after effects, like an eternal hangover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely, Mike. It impacts neural circuity associated with bonding and reward neurotransmitters. That’s why people easily get sucked into the deception. These religious leaders use specific methods that can release endorphins, giving the illusion that what people are experiencing is from a deity or “holy spirit”. This has been studied at length. For example, behavioral neuroscientist Michael Persinger states that when you bring people into a group, where they feel diminutive because of the size of the place, be it a cathedral, mega church, a stadium, near a mountain, or open space — people will experience a special kind of psychological arousal — a sense of wholeness.

      He further states in the excellent documentary “A Question of Miracles” (which you can find on YouTube), that when music is presented, that rises and falls every four to five seconds, it produces a kind of wave of experience that elevates a special kind of arousal, and also releases opiates which scientists know (experimentally) increases the hypnotizing effect, thus increasing suggestibility.

      Quoting Persingering: “You have these groups in the kind of ecstatic states, a kind of expectancy state, then you have the individual come out, the speaker who will coordinate all these experiences among the mass of people. This person must be a kind of orchestra leader to maintain his great orchestration of cognitive experiences. As the speaker begins to give the message, the people are full of emotion — full of imagery. It’s a feeling of being one with everyone in the group.

      These images take on tremendous personal value because of the elevation of the opiates. Because of the groups state of ecstasy, and within the gathered crowds, you see the features of these opiate releases. They may cry. Individuals sway. You get the smiles, a mild glow, like a mild drunken state. These experiences are associated with mild electrical changes deep within the brain.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking of salesmen, have you noticed the similarities between the audience at Joel Osteen and Donald Trump rallies? Both salesmen who count on lack of empathy, fear, and anxiety in their target markets to sell their goods.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. While I like the quote, the “uniting millions” view is way short of the mark. It is far more a divider than a uniter. Much like GW Bush, contrary to what he said.

    Religion is the wall of dogma that blocks the path to world brotherhood/sisterhood. I don’t know if I posted this before on your site, but I will post it again:

    The Graveyard of History is strewn with the bleached bones of dead gods, each and every one laid low by the Broadsword of Disbelief. And for whom shall the requiem play next? It shall play for thee, dear Yahweh, and for all of our gods du jour. For the forgotten gods of antiquity were once the living gods of today, and the living gods of today shall tomorrow be the forgotten gods of antiquity.

    It must be understood, therefore, that universal empathy, peace, and love, can be achieved only through reason, and reason shall reign only when the gravediggers have no more gods to bury. (M. Jefferson Hale, Beyond Paine, 2025)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Max, great to see you again. You have a point about uniting and dividing. I gathered from the quote (taking in the full content of the video linked in OP – his name) that Hellenes was using the term as associated with tribalism. So with that in mind, it certainly compliments your comment and the quote you shared. That quote reminds me of something Mark Twain wrote:

      “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! As I often say, Who doesn’t love irony?–even dark irony.

        My book site, is titled “The Irony Within,” referencing, of course, society’s complete disconnect between its sense of justice, mercy, and benevolence, and its belief that the god of the OT was/is just, merciful, and (as John 3:16 suggests), omnibenevolent.

        It is amazing how thinking people can hold two, completely contradictory beliefs at the same time and, if it is pointed out, the cognitive dissonances will trigger astonishing agility in logically fallacious mental gymnastics, and then continue to belive both propositions.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Well I can vouch for the bliss of ignorance.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This fits well considering I watched a documentary about cyclist Lance Armstrong the other night …

    Had he managed to lie his way around his cheating, he might have been dubbed as Jesus’ second coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just like the dumbest word in the universe …

    Love his videos Victoria. Thanks for sharing this. 😀 ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have been reflecting further on this post and find a great power in the simplicity of this insight.

    The power of religion comes not from any truth it contains but rather from the degree of certainty that its followers have in its truth. This power can motivate people to action, in some cases such action is good but sadly more often it’s is harmful.

    Christian apologists often argue that people would not die for a lie and thus suggest this the death by martyrdom of early Christians show that Christianity must have been true. I can only assume that they have never looked at any other world religion to make such a logically flawed claim. The overwhelming evidence of world religion is that people are prepared to die for a lie, that they think is truth, and even more they are prepared to kill others for those lies.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Peter,
      this statement -> The power of religion comes not from any truth it contains but rather from the degree of certainty that its followers have in its truth. is at the heart of the matter

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually Peter, I’m not sure that’s true. Why just today, I finished up a conversation with a brilliant genius who knows which god and religion (Christian) is the right one and he knows this to be true because he’s masterful at logic, is an expert in sound arguments and has all kinds of evidence for his beliefs.
        So there! What do you think of that Mister?!?!?
        🙂 LOL


        • Ashley, the closest I have ever come to pulling out my own hair is listening to the apologists who say they have irrefutable logic proving their god exists.

          Inevitably the proof rests on some starting presuppositions that provide a very weak foundation for the argument that follows.

          As an aside I have been reading through William Barclays commentaries on the Gospels. Barclay was a real scholar who knew his material. What I have found enlightening is how Barclay demonstrates that every moral teaching of Jesus had an antecedent in Jewish or related teachings of the time.

          Barclay says that the only truly original saying attributed to Jesus was the Golden rule, ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’. But even this is not so original as Jesus’ originality actually was limited to turning the well known negative saying ‘don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to you’ into a positive statement.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Ashley,
          a christian with evidence for his beliefs. I want to meet him


          • I don’t want to post the entire exchange here because there’s way too much rambling nonsense, but I thought I’d give you a little taste of the good stuff. I won’t use his/her real name so I’ll just use a Pseudonym. Let’s call that person Hugh Jazzole.

            Snippet of one statement:

            “One such argument Christians tend to rely upon is the Lord, Liar, or Lunatic argument (which existed in various forms prior to C.S Lewis’ version here listed). Jesus made the claim that he is the divine Son of God, among other claims. Either he was lying, a lunatic, or telling the truth and actually was what he claimed to be – Lord. When you look at the accounts of him made in the bible, and of his apostles, it’s impossible to believe they were lying. They didn’t gain fame or fortune or power during their lifetimes, the only thing they got was executed. These people abandoned their livelihoods and got killed for what they were saying, never once recanted. It would be most rational to assume they weren’t lying.

            And what about lunatic? Was he just crazy? Naturally you think anyone claiming to be God was a lunatic, but what if he’s the one person to be right about it? He wouldn’t be a lunatic if he was right. So let’s think of the people claiming to be divine; you don’t just dismiss them as lunatics because of it, as it’s already self-evident due to their behavior. They’re irrational, paranoid, unrealistic people. But the accounts of Jesus we have don’t suggest that. He comes off as sane, rational, wise, realistic. If he was just a crazy man rambling on, the Jews wouldn’t have been so threatened by him as to want him crucified.

            Leaving the only option remaining, Lord. You could extend the argument to have an option being a legend or just a guru of sorts, but they too are flawed.

            Once you’ve accepted that Jesus is God, Christianity easily follows, bringing theology with it and the rest.”

            Snippet of another statement, made a approx. 12 hours later, after I responded:

            “As to the actual new part of the argument you give me, it’s fairly easy actually to determine which God it is, though the specific religion is harder. I won’t give you the arguments behind my reasoning, but I can first cross off my list every non-monotheistic belief system and arrive at Classical Theism. So bam, I’m convinced of one very specific God. But which religion worships and teaches about him best? That’s a difficult process, but if you are already right, no more searching needs to be done; if I know Rome is in Italy, I won’t look for it elsewhere on the map.”


            • The Lord, Liar Lunatic choice has been shown to be a logical fallacy as it leaves out the fourth ‘L” Legend.

              More recent history has provided plenty of evidence of folk who are prepared to die for clearly false beliefs.

              I would encourage any Christian who buys these arguments to study closely the history of the Mormon Church as the growth of this variant which Christians consider nonsense provides a good case study that undermines many of their reasons for why Christianity must be true.


            • Ah, this is interesting. This christcultist thinks this is evidence for the truth of their chosen cult? I am impressed


              • This guy was the perfect example of the dunning-kruger effect. I. his mind, he was a master at logic and sound/valid argument although, strangely though, he became kinda coy and meek after I told him that he was right and that he’s smarter than me and that he’s got the mystery of the entire universe all figured out and that everyone who isn’t a Christian is obviously wrong. He “didn’t like the tone that the conversation was taking anymore” after I said that. Arrogant enough to know he’s right when he’s got the mystery of the universe figured out and just modest enough not to want to talk about it too much. Interesting cat.


    • “The power of religion comes not from any truth it contains but rather from the degree of certainty that its followers have in its truth. “

      Really insightful and well said, Peter. You, your comment, have/has inspired me to do another post.


  10. Very true. This is been beautifully illustrated in Elmer Gantry. I have written about an “alternate viewpoint” which is that Lifei is inexplicable. One can agree that “Religeons” that have been presented to us are fabrications of humans in response to their fears. I believe that one can believe in subjective manifestations of the inexplicable: love (both platonic and romantic) charity, forging, the arts and a feeling of an enormous awe of biological manifestations.
    My description of these manifestations is that they are the “Shadows” of things that have no objective manifestation. For many millennia man fabricated stories about how to live with the inexplicable. Billions of people desperately grab on to these rafts; out of unbareable fear, seek solice in these leaky lifeboats called Religeons.Until the past few hundred years there were physical and biological “truths” that were true without anyone understanding them. Darwin for example, saw the reality of evolution in the “shadows” variations in the species.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Agree…the worst lie is the one we tell ourselves…and then choose to believe it. And, some lies are clearly worse than others…hell…original sin…the burden of guilt indoctrinated into children–those are crimes against humanity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Crimes against humanity, indeed. Wonderful to see you here, Luke. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Luke, even almost a year after my faith crumbled I am struggling to get past a deep felt view that I am a bad a guilty sinner.

      Religion of that sort can be especially traumatic for those of us with an overactive conscience.


      • Peter, yes, religion can be and has, for me, been a trauma and drama. I can only speak for my own experience–everyone has a different path and I wish you peace. I have found peace, now. But, getting completely clear of the residual thought tendencies (not really guilt for me but frustration I allowed myself to be duped…honestly) took a few months. I closed down my blog, ceased commenting and reading blogs and immersed myself in a completely different type of reading, thinking. My new book project is help a LOT! The residual anger–frustration–at being misled is really more self-imposed. I knew better. I did. But, in the search for “something” I gave-up my reasoning…and that is never a good thing. Stay in touch–hope your path continues to offer encouragement, peace and happiness–stay strong! Best, luke


  12. Before I read the last line, this section jumped off the page at me: triumph over mountains of contradictory evidence. I immediately said to myself … Oh really???

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nan over recent months I have been working through the key apologist material in favour of Christianity. This process has caused me to question the honesty of many such apologists. I keep thinking to myself that I could come up with better arguments in favour of Christianity than they have and no longer believe.


  13. This is what I like about science, there is no duality in it. We may not have it completely right, but it is what it is. For religion, no matter what claim religion makes, you can say, well how do you know it’s your God, because some other God will also fit the description. Or how do you know it was just one God, and not two Gods? There are always other answers that work just as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thinking of you, Victoria. Philadelphia is on TV right now. It’s that opera scene with Hanks and Washington.


  15. I just spat out my coffee!


  16. Haven’t heard heard from you in a while. You ok? Miss you


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